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Acer is a genus of trees or shrubs commonly known as maple. Maples are variously classified in a family of their own, the Aceraceae, or together with the Hippocastanaceae included in the family Sapindaceae. Maples are the most common tree family found in the UK, with the majority located in West Yorkshire. The type species of the genus is Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore maple).
There are approximately 128 species, most of which are native to Asia, with a number also appearing in Europe, northern Africa, and North America. Only one species, the poorly studied Acer laurinum, is native to the Southern Hemisphere. Fifty-four species of maples meet the International Union for Conservation of Nature criteria for being under threat of extinction in their native habitat.

Most maples are trees growing to 10 – 45 m (30 – 145 ft) in height. Others are shrubs less than 10 metres tall with a number of small trunks originating at ground level. Most species are deciduous, but a few in southern Asia and the Mediterranean region are evergreen. Most are shade-tolerant when young and are often riparian, understory, or pioneer species rather than climax overstory trees with a few exceptions such as Sugar Maple. Many of the root systems are typically dense and fibrous, inhibiting the growth of other vegetation underneath them. A few species, notably Acer cappadocicum, frequently produce root sprouts, which can develop into clonal colonies. Maples are distinguished by opposite leaf arrangement. The leaves in most species are palmate veined and lobed, with 3 to 9 (rarely to 13) veins each leading to a lobe, one of which is central or apical. A small number of species differ in having palmate compound, pinnate compound, pinnate veined or unlobed leaves. Several species, including Acer griseum (Paperbark maple); Acer mandshuricum (Manchurian maple); Acer maximowiczianum (Nikko maple); and Acer triflorum (Three-flowered maple), have trifoliate leaves. One species, Acer negundo (Box-elder), has pinnately compound leaves that may be simply trifoliate or may have five, seven, or rarely nine leaflets. A few, such as Acer laevigatum (Nepal maple) and Acer carpinifolium (Hornbeam maple), have pinnately veined simple leaves.

The Sugar maple (A. saccharum) is tapped for sap, which is then boiled to produce maple syrup or made into maple sugar or maple taffy. It takes about 40 litres (42 US qt) of sugar maple sap to make 1 litre (1.1 US qt) of syrup. While any Acer species may be tapped for syrup, many do not have sufficient quantities of sugar to be commercially useful.

Sugar maple bark